What Is An Overbite and What Does Overbite Correction and Surgery Involve?

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An overbite is the overlap or gap between the top and bottom front teeth. It’s fairly common for the upper teeth to sit too far over or in front of the lower teeth, causing overbite teeth problems. Fortunately, dentists have spent generations learning how to fix this issue and now overbite correction is the second most common reason people choose to get braces.

overbite teeth with braces
If you have malocclusion, you may need braces or surgery to correct it

Here, we’ll answer questions such as:

  • What is an overbite?
  • What’s the difference between a normal, deep and severe overbite?
  • Why should you fix overbite?
  • What does treatment involve?

Keep reading to learn more about this common dental malocclusion issue and what to do if you’re worried about it.

What is an overbite?

The definition of an overbite is the vertical overlap or horizontal gap between your top and bottom front teeth.

If it’s horizontal, also called an ‘overjet’, it causes the upper teeth to protrude at the front of the mouth. When very pronounced, you might hear this called ‘buck teeth’, but we will refrain from using that term here.

When the vertical overlap is 2-4mm, or around 30% of the lower teeth are covered, this is a considered normal overbite. A deep overbite, also known as a deep bite, occurs when the overlap is 4-6mm or more. In the case of a very severe overbite, the upper teeth may completely cover the lower teeth and even dig into the lower gum.

An overbite can be both horizontal and vertical, meaning the upper teeth protrude at the front and hang too far down over the lower teeth.

The video below gives a brief visual explanation of these different dental problems including overjet vs overbite:

What causes an overbite

teeth problems from thumb sucking
Try to discourage thumb sucking

There are a few different things that might cause this dental problem. Some of the common reasons include:

  • Genetics
  • A jaw that doesn’t form properly as a fetus
  • Thumb sucking as a child
  • Overusing a bottle or pacifier as a baby
  • Tongue thrusting
  • Nail biting
  • Excessive chewing on things like pencils and pens

Different types

There are two types of overbite: skeletal and dental. The skeletal kind is caused by irregularities in jawbone development. A dental overbite occurs when there are problems with baby or adult teeth coming through, like overcrowding, or when teeth are put under pressure, for example from thumb sucking.

Overbite vs underbite

overbite vs underbite
This diagram shows an over and underbite

An overbite occurs when your upper jaw sits over your lower teeth, whereas an underbite occurs when your lower teeth sit in front of your upper teeth. Underbite is also known as prognathism, and has different issues and treatments associated with it. You can read more about underbite here.

Is an overbite bad?

Once you understand the condition, the next step is to discover whether you need treatment. Your orthodontist will help you choose the right method of treatment for you, based on your needs. The information in the table below will help you identify whether the condition is a severe overbite vs normal, and what treatment – if any – might be needed.

Type of overbite Size Cause Requires braces? Requires surgery?
Normal 2-4mm Usually dental Unlikely Highly unlikely
Deep 4-8mm Dental or skeletal Very likely Unlikely
Severe 9mm or more Dental or skeletal Yes Likely

 

There are a range of reasons why it’s a good idea to fix an overbite. Untreated, overbite problems can include:

  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Teeth wearing down quickly
  • Facial pain
  • Speech problems
  • Poor face structure

Perhaps you are considering the options for getting rid of an overbite in your child, and are wondering whether it’s worth putting them through the treatment. Bear in mind in most cases, the younger the correction takes place, the better. It can be harder to correct an overbite in adults because the jawbone and tooth roots are more firmly developed.

The process of getting braces, surgery, and then long-term retainers for an overbite might be a bit scary but the benefits of fixing misaligned teeth will outweigh the short-term discomfort during treatment.

How to fix an overbite

When you first learn that you have an overjet or deep bite, of course it is concerning and you’ll want to know how to correct your condition. The first thing to understand is that a normal overbite is around 2-4mm, so you don’t always have to worry about your upper teeth overhanging slightly.

There are different ways your dentist might suggest correcting your bite. It will depend on how severe the problem is, and what has caused it. Trust that your dentist or specialist knows the best solution, but if you think you have a bad overbite and are concerned or worried about the advice you get you can always seek a second opinion.

Overbite braces

overbite braces
Braces are an effective way to re-align teeth for an overbite-free smile

Most overbite correction in the US is done using braces. Treatment with braces is effective and, when followed up with a retainer, the results should be lifelong. This treatment can take between one and two years; sometimes more. 

If getting private orthodontic treatment, you may have the option of clear braces, which are less noticeable than traditional metal ones.

Before getting braces for an overbite, ask your dentist or orthodontist to show you pictures of overbites before and after braces. Knowing what a difference this treatment can make to your smile may help motivate you through the short-term discomfort!

Invisalign for overbite

invisalign overbite
Invisible aligner braces are much less noticeable

Invisalign clear aligner braces are a really effective form of overbite correction for mild and moderate cases. Although almost invisible, these braces apply pressure to move teeth to a much better position, transforming a deep overbite to a normal one. Patients usually switch to a new set of aligners every two weeks.

Treatment with Invisalign may be quicker than with regular metal braces, but the main advantage of this system is that it’s almost unnoticeable. Although Invisalign for overbite is not available on on Medicaid, it may be partially covered on some insurance plans and many parents are happy to pay the extra for their children to avoid ‘metal mouth’ taunts at school. Invisalign is also popular with adults who want to maintain a more professional appearance or have the flexibility to remove their braces.

If you want to find out whether you or your child are a suitable candidate for invisible braces or clear aligners, take our free Smile Test today. It only takes a minute to enter your details, and you’ll get an answer right away.

Check your eligibility
for invisible braces
Step 1 / 4
1 Choose the image that most closely resembles your teeth:
2 Give some more information about the spaces between your teeth:
Upper teeth:
Lower teeth:
3 General information
I would like to begin orthodontic treatment:
Have you previously had orthodontic treatment (with metal braces, clear braces, or any other type)?
4 Please provide the following details to complete the process:

Discover more about Invisalign and other invisible braces in our full guide. 

Overbite surgery

A jaw set too far forward can be caused by skeletal issues in which case it usually requires correction with jaw surgery, also called orthognathic surgery. When the lower jaw, or mandible, has not developed properly, surgery can help improve the shape. You can expect your facial appearance to change slightly as a result of the surgery.

In the US, overbite surgery on CHIP or Medicaid is free of charge for children, when deemed medically necessary. Adults with a severely misaligned bite may be eligible for Medicaid treatment prices.

Overbite treatment with surgery normally involves one or more of the following:

  • Removing of some teeth
  • Repositioning the jaw
  • Inserting screws
  • Adding plates around the jaw

All of the work to fix an overbite in the jaw is done inside the mouth, so it won’t leave any visible scars. Patients will probably have to stay in hospital overnight after overbite surgery, and take off work or school for 2-4 weeks. Additional orthodontic work usually takes place before and after the surgery to guide the alignment of the teeth.

If you think you are a candidate for overbite surgery,  you may be wondering how much overbite surgery costs. Surgery is extremely expensive and may cost you between $20,000 and $40,000 without insurance. This is why insurance will only cover it or help pay for it if your dentist deems it to be medically necessary. 

Retainer for overbite treatment

retainer treatment
A retainer helps keep teeth in position

In some cases, it’s possible to fix an overbite problem with a removable retainer. This works in a similar way to braces, slowly moving the teeth into the correct alignment. Your dentist will advise you on whether this is a suitable treatment in your case.

If you get orthodontic treatment, it will be necessary to wear a retainer to stop your teeth slipping back into their old position. You can read more about wearing a retainer after braces here

Headgear for overbite

Headgear is used only in cases of severe bite problems. It is normally worn at home and is only used in children, because it works with your child’s jaw as it grows. 

Summary: Before and after treatment

Before you fix your overbite teeth, you may be very conscious about how you look; especially if you have a severe overbite. You may also experience facial pain and headaches as a result of a deep overbite pushing back your lower jaw and putting pressure on your nerves and blood supply. You might wear your teeth down quicker because there is more strain on them.

Once you have achieved a normal overbite following correction, you might notice a change in your face shape because your lower jaw is further forward. This won’t be extreme; you might need to look at your before and after pictures to see the difference! Any pain you may have felt should hopefully go away after your braces or surgery.

FAQs

What does an overbite look like?

There are different types of overbites with different symptoms, but you may be able to tell if you have an overbite if you notice your upper teeth protruding forward more than your lower teeth. Most people have a slight overbite that is not noticeable and doesn’t need treatment.

How to get rid of an overbite?

Overbite correction is generally pretty straightforward. Dentists and orthodontists know how to correct an overbite after years of experience with this treatment in dentistry. You can:

  • Get overbite braces
  • Have jaw surgery
  • Use a retainer

Can braces fix an overbite?

The short answer is, yes! Braces can and do fix overbites, and overbite correction with braces is the most common treatment in the US.

Does Invisalign fix deep bites and overjets?

The easy answer is yes! Overbite teeth can be fixed with Invisalign in most moderate cases. The price for Invisalign overbite correction is a little higher than metal braces, but treatment may be quicker and is a lot less obvious to other people.

To check your eligibility for Invisalign overbite or other invisible braces treatment, take a minute to complete our free Smile Test.

Can you fix an overbite naturally?

fix an overbite
Braces and jaw surgery for overbite are the most common treatments

Unfortunately, you cannot correct this problem naturally; you’ll need overbite surgery or braces to fix your overbite. It is possible to prevent some overbite cases, such as those caused by thumb sucking, pencil chewing, or overuse of pacifiers in babies. But, if you have a severe overbite and want to know how to fix it, you will need to consult a dentist.

Can you fix an overbite at home?

There is no way to fix your malocclusion at home. Consult your dentist to see what options are available to you. You can, however, help prevent them by weening your children off of thumbsucking and pacifier use, especially if they are still doing it at 3 to 4 years of age.

Can you fix an overbite without braces?

Braces are the most common form of treatment for overbite correction. If you are concerned about esthetics, invisible braces may be the best option for you. Some very severe overbites can be fixed with jaw surgery.

Can I get correction in the US with my insurance?

Children under 18 may be eligible to have overbite teeth fixed on CHIP or Medicaid with braces or surgery. As with any other treatment, approval will depend on the severity of the condition and the state you live in. 

Adults are only likely to get braces or overbite surgery on the Medicaid if they have a severe overbite which causes problems with everyday things like eating and speaking. You and your dentist will need to assess the degree of your jaw misalignment to see whether it is something your states Medicaid program will cover.

What is a normal overbite?

It’s considered normal when the upper front teeth sit around 2-4mm in front of or overhanging the lower teeth. Research suggests that the average overbite teeth have is 2.9mm, and around 8% of children have a deep or severe overbite of more than 6mm. In the US, correction treatment is normally recommended in cases of more than 4mm.

How long does it take to fix an overbite?

Treatment with braces normally takes from 1 to 2 years to fix, but you may be advised to wear a retainer for the rest of your life. 

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Sources

Johnson Elite Orthodontics: Orthodontic Statistics: Did You Know …? Consulted 16th May 2019.

NCBI: Prevalence and distribution of selected occlusal characteristics in the US population, 1988-1991. Consulted 16th May 2019.

American Association of Orthodontics: Understanding your treatment options Consulted 26 June 2019.

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